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Downtown I-5 columns will feature sunset design

A Seattle University student’s design will grace the busy freeway overpass

A series of painted columns under a freeway overpass, with a sunrise pattern on one end and a sunset on the other.
A simulation of what the finished column project will look like

The columns underneath Interstate 5 along Cherry Street and James Street are getting a pop of color.

After a public vote among five finalists, artist and Seattle University student Nathan Watkins’s design was chosen for the overpass that separates Downtown from First Hill—which is currently a sea of concrete.

A series of columns goes from night to day with a sunset design
In Watkins’s design, the sunrise (right) will start on the east side of the overpass in First Hill, and transition to a sunset (left) on the west side Downtown.

Watkins’s concept features a series of silhouettes of a hillside, with a sunrise on the east side of the overpass transitioning into a sunset on the west side.

In his proposal, Watkins said he purposely designed the images to be more abstract and less distracting to drivers, but detailed enough up close to be interesting to pedestrians, or “eye-catching without actually needing to catch the eye.”

First Hill Improvement Association received funding for the project through the Seattle Office of Economic Development’s Only In Seattle program. The design will be installed in the late spring and early summer, in partnership with youth arts empowerment nonprofit Urban Artworks.

I-5 bisects Seattle, separates neighborhoods, and creates a lot of design challenges. Painting the columns is a strategy used in the International District before under the overpass at South King Street and South Jackson Street—a site that may be seeing more activation soon as InterIm Community Development Association and Site Workshop explore design options.